Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Jersey Shore, or the Death of the American Dream, Part II: The First Night


"Make sure you wrap everything up, alright?"

Glenn, our landlord for the weekend, smirked. A muscley dude with spiky hair and a tan, he showed no sign of having spent his life at anywhere besides the beach and the clubs. It's not a bad life, necessarily, but it's one that can really only exist in towns such as this one--tourist traps geared around tits and bronzer, just waiting to be washed away by a class-5 hurricane that Pat Robertson can blame on the wrath of an angry God.

After Glenn's warning regarding the level of venereal disease present among the female populace of Seaside Heights (here, I imagined a tiny particle of syphilis, its flagellum spiked and blown out, meandering its way from guido to guido, techno-dancing all the way), we surveyed our surroundings. The place we had rented teetered unsteadily on the border of livable and shithole--two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Furnishings included a pull-out couch, a tiny refrigerator, and an eight-inch TV. We were going to have to rough it to survive.

The first order of business was exploring the boardwalk.


Actually, the first order of business was getting ready, which is unremarkable save for a story which I'm honor-bound to relate.

The weekend was hot as balls, and our air conditioner was barely worthy of the name, so we each relied on different methods of staying cool and dry. I had just finished applying an extra layer of deodorant, when Phil offered a fascinating alternative method, which I hadn't yet considered.

"Do you need some GoldBond powder?" he asked.

Now, I'm an arrogant bastard. Out of everyone who had made that trip, I was the consensus choice for "most likely to get us all killed by mouthing off to the wrong guy". I don't like to admit that I'm wrong. But, in certain situations, I will reveal the limits of my weakness and allow that, yes, perhaps I don't know everything. Case in point: I had never in my life heard of GoldBond powder.

I suppose, at some point, I was familiar with the concept of deodorant powder, but I had neither used nor seen it used. I pointed this out to Phil, who had a quizzical look on his face.

"You know, you put it on you, keeps you dry," he said.

The rest of the crew chimed in with their assent. Apparently everyone had heard of this shit except for me. I felt out of place. What was this strange world, where blowouts ruled the day, where the smell of bronzer permeated the air like the stench of death on a battlefield, where...where...where...

"You use it to GoldBond your nuts."

A beat of time. No one said anything. Everyone looked at Phil.

"Right?" he said.

Pandemonium. Chances are, if you see Phil walking down the street, he'll be fully protected from the evils of genital flop-sweat. He's a better man for it.


The boardwalk was half-continual bar and half-carnival, though clearly catered toward a more adult sensibility than your average sideshow. Our trip up and down the boardwalk was unremarkable, save for a rather ill-advised idea to consume at least one Long Island Iced Tea (aren't we FUCKING HARDCORE, eh?) at each place we stopped. I estimate we each lost something on the order of eighty dollars attempting to win various carnival prizes.

One game in particular enchanted us--a giant roulette wheel which promised an authentic MLB jersey as a prize. AP won a Mike Schmidt Phillies jersey on his first try. Juan countered with a bright orange Cal Ripken Jr. jersey. Struggling only a bit more than our first two winners, Phil took home a Derek Jeter All-Star game uniform.

Ron and I were left with nothing. The vendor, a hefty and good-natured woman with a tattoo spanning her ample chest, implored us to continue, but fortunately for our wallets, it was about time to start hitting the clubs.


I've referenced the concept of a "blowout" several times here without truly describing it. A blowout is a haircut that has found somewhat of a habitat on the skull of your average Jersey guido. Perhaps you want one of your own. Here is a quick guide on how to style your hair in the form of a blowout:
  1. Get the bangin-est, most hardcore, industrial strength hair gel you can possibly find. You may have to order it from shady arms dealers, because in some countries, you can make certain low-grade chemical weapons from this stuff.
  2. Stand in front of a concussion grenade. Wait for it to go off.
  3. When it goes off, use the gel to keep your hair in the exact same place said grenade has left it.
We had decided at the outset of the trip that we would try to blend in as much as possible with the locals, so Ron had brought an impressive array of gel with him. Unfortunately, I was the only one with hair long enough (and silky enough, and beautiful enough, and manly enough) to fashion into blowout shape. Ron handed me a bottle.

"This is probably the second-strongest stuff I have," he said. I shuddered. The strongest stuff was probably toxic.

"I had better have all my fucking hair in the morning," I said, as I went to work.

Andrew is ron to joe: “he’s defining the hairline right now.” 12:35am

I was still getting that shit out of my head three days later.


At the beginning of the trip, we had half a notion to institute a rule that would increase the sociability of everyone involved. The rule was as such; were you caught eying a girl, and someone noticed, you had to go talk to her. Phil and I thought this rule was a great idea.

We stood watch on the balcony of Bamboo, apparently the best nightclub in the area, and we observed with a mounting horror just how irrelevant our rule was.

Bright orange neon bamboo trees bathed the place in a hellish light, and techno music blared from three or four separate sources (I was vaguely reminded of sleep-deprivation torture at Guantanamo Bay). The assorted humanity either writhed on the dance floor or chatted at tables.

I looked at one group of girls. Teased-out hair. Deep, bronze-aided tans. Screeching giggles.

I shifted focus to another group. Teased-out hair. Deep, bronze-aided tans. Screeching giggles.

Now disoriented, I spied another group. Teased-out hair. Deep, bronze-aided...wait, was this the same group as before?

Phil shook his head. Behind him, I took a picture of a man with terrible cornrows, and another guy with a graphic t-shirt featuring what looked like an imperial Eagle (used by the Romans, but also by a group of clean-cut German fellows from the 1930s).

"They look the same," he said. "They all look the same."

We left. But we'd be back. The rest of the night is a haze, your typical extended bar-hop, consuming drink after drink at each location until the alcohol has backed up to your eyeballs, until the bare thought of drinking more is getting you more drunk, but you couldn't be, man, there's no way--there's no WAY--you could be more drunk than you are right now, so you feel a sudden need for food and--bless it, bless it--Steaks Unlimited is still open, and the steak sandwiches and cheeseballs taste better than anything you've ever had before in your life, save maybe for the last time you ate something while hammered, and you're all laughing to the blue neon heavens about everything and anything as you all stumble into the apartment, but now AP has decided he needs must swim in the motel pool across the way, so you're cheering him on as he hops the fence and dives in, but now he's trying to get out and he trips and the motel is booing him, which just makes you laugh louder and longer, and you settle back on the floor feeling like ten billion dollars, because this place may be hellish, but it is hilarious, and you've got a whole day-and-a-half left, and


A day-and-a-half?

Suddenly, I began to feel sick.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Jersey Shore, or, the Death of the American Dream: The Drive


I can't say the Jersey Shore is the worst place in the world, because I've never been to Turkmenistan.

Before I committed to the idea of a trip to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, my friend Juan, being of a generally honest comportment, made sure I knew what I was getting into.

"We're going to the Jersey Shore," Juan said. "Watch these videos. These are the people we'll be dealing with."

"These are the clubs we'll be attending."

"This is the food we'll be eating."

"Do you still want to come?"

Well, fuck it. At least the cheeseballs will be tasty.


So we went, shooting down the east coast like a blood comet, a portent of doom for all to see. Would it be our doom, or the Shore's? We rolled five deep: our planner and driver, the aforementioned Juan; our minister of hair gel and graphic tee-shirts, Ron (also the one who, in a pinch, could pass as a native); AP, champion drinker and latter-day ninja; Phil, my roommate and the man in charge of music; and finally, myself, purveyor of refreshments and widely acclaimed as the one most cynical about our prospects of having a good time.

Immediately, the mood turned ugly. It centered around the snacks.

"You brought baby carrots?" AP said, more of a deflated statement than an actual question.

Heads swiveled. I found myself on the defensive.

"I don't see the problem," I said. "They're nutritious, easily snackable, tasty, and they'll improve your eyesight. Plus, I didn't just bring baby carrots. I brought apples, and pears, and grapes."

Glares all around. AP warily took a carrot. We ended up polishing those carrots off, but at the cost of this conclusion, preserved through the magic of mobile phone updates to Facebook:

Andrew is eating baby carrots on the way to the shore. that’s the last time we put joey d in charge of the food. 5:51pm

I swear, guys. Three years ago I would have totally gone for M&Ms and such. I eat healthier these days. That didn't stop them from expressing abject horror at the mere prospect of eating baby carrots for the entirety of our four hour-ish trip.

Consider this my apology. Next time I'll bring macadamia nuts or something.


Have you ever heard of the story of Nate the Snake? It's a Shaggy Dog story, which is a tale that begins with great promise, descends into redundancy, and concludes with infuriating ambiguity. The intent is to stretch it out as long as possible. While stuck in traffic, I took advantage of a captive audience and regaled them with the story for a half an hour.

I won't reproduce it in full. I do want you to finish reading this.

There's this guy, Jake, who gets stuck in a desert, and he's about to die. Just before he does, he happens upon the Garden of Eden, here represented by a lever stuck in the ground, guarded by a talking snake. The snake, named Nate, promises him eternal health and wisdom if he promises to oversee the lever in time of need. The lever will end the world if pushed by the guardian, so he is being given a great responsibility. If, at any time, he judges the world to be past saving, he is to travel to the garden and push the lever.

Jake says yes, and spends his next few years attaining wealth and fame. He visits Nate and the lever now and again, and one day Nate reveals that he has a son, named Sammy. Nate says that it's past time he retired, and wants Jake to train Sammy to be Nate's replacement, after which he wants Jake to kill him in a highly ritualistic manner.

Jake and Sammy travel the world, and when it's finally time, Jake purchases a samurai sword and, with Sammy, travels back to Nate and the lever. He crests a hill, and to his horror, realizes that his brakes have failed. He's pointed straight at the lever that will end the world.

Jake struggles with the steering wheel. He sees Nate next to the lever. He realizes that the only way he can avoid striking the lever and ending the world is if he runs over Nate. So he turns to Sammy, tears streaming down his face, and screams:


Groans. Facebook updates send the highly abridged version to the world at large.

Keith Jackson is is amazed that they made it to the Jersey Shore without killing Joe D. 9:36pm


The traffic soon abated, and we hit the home stretch. The GPS system in the car showed us on a long strip of land, surrounded by the bright blue of the Shore. We'd made it.

The character of the land is quickly revealed in the stores on the side of the road. We wound our way through an endless strip mall, which seemed to consist only of tanning salons. Tanning salons and Italian places. Five spires, brightly colored garish neon, soon rose in the distance. The GPS led us to them, as if we were wise men following a perverse Star of Bethlehem, inexorably drawn to the birthplace of some wretched Anti-Christ, just waiting to devour us in its birth throes.

But we ended up being a thirty-second walk from the cheeseball place. So it all evened out.

Our minds weary, our legs numb, and our nostrils foully assailed by Juan's unfortunate gastric tendencies, we spilled out of the SUV and surveyed our surroundings. A motel next to our apartment shrieked with the cries of high schoolers on a prom bender. The boardwalk of Seaside Heights lounged not two minutes away from us, uncoiling like a great Wyrm, grown fat on hair gel and silicone.
Bike-mounted cops rode past us, giving us and legions of tattooed, muscled guidos the evil eye.

This was truly the raging hemorrhoid of America.

We had arrived.

It was going to be a great time.

NEXT: The First Night, or what parts of it I can recall.